duminică, 8 aprilie 2012

Primul capitol din Elemental de Brigid Kemmerer.



CHAPTER ONE

The thrill of having a summer job wore off about fifteen minutes after Emily Morgan started working. She’d had two customers all day. The sports complex was such a joke. No wonder she hadn’t had any competition for this job.
It wasn’t even a sports complex, not really. Mini-golf that no one wanted to play when it was a hundred degrees outside. Batting cages that no one would use until school started up in the fall. She probably wouldn’t see another soul until after five, when the white collar dads showed up to use the driving range as a last ditch effort to avoid going home to screaming kids.
Even then, in this heat, she’d be lucky if there were many.
Ugh, her hair was already plastered to her neck. Days like these, she wished she had enough power to do more than stir up a gentle breeze.
Then she choked off that thought.
She knew what happened to kids with power.
Besides, sitting here wasn’t so bad. She worked the shop alone, so she could blast the entire soundtrack to Rent and Les Mis and sing along, and no one would give a crap. She didn’t have to watch her brother Tyler light insects on fire with a magnifying glass and a sunbeam, like he’d done last summer. She didn’t have to listen to her parents argue.
She could count the days until she turned eighteen.
Until she could get away from her family.
The shop door creaked and rattled, sticking in the humidity. Emily straightened, excited for a customer, for someone—anyone—to break up this cruel monotony.
Anyone but Michael Merrick.
For a second, she entertained the thought of diving behind the counter.
Real mature, Em.
But her hands were slick against the glass casing.
It wasn’t that he looked all that intimidating. He’d be starting his senior year this fall, just like she was, but sometime over the last six months he’d grown to the tall side of average. He worked for his parents’ landscaping company, she knew, and it couldn’t have been light work—his arms showed some clear definition, his shoulders stretching the red tee shirt he wore.
He was filthy, too. Dirt streaked across his chest and clung to the sweat on his neck. His jeans had seen better days, and his work boots would probably track dirt across the floor. Even his hair, dark and wild and a length somewhere between sexy and I-don’t-give-a-crap, was more unkempt than usual.
Emily didn’t care about any of that.
She had her eyes on the baseball bat in his hands.
He’d gotten into it with Tyler last weekend, had sent her brother home with a black eye and a bloody nose, leaving their parents to argue for an hour about how they were going to handle the Merrick problem.
Emily slid her hand along the counter, toward where they kept the putt-putt clubs for little kids.
“I don’t want any trouble,” she said, her voice solid, but too quick. Her fingers wrapped around the handle of a club.
Michael’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t either.”
Then she realized he hadn’t moved from the doorway, that he was still standing there staring at her, his hand on the knob.
He glanced past her, at the corners of the shop, as if reassuring himself that they were alone. She had no idea what that meant. She watched him take in her stance, the way she’d half-pulled the putt-putt club free.
He followed her gaze to the bat resting against his shoulder.
His expression hardened, and he shoved the door closed. He was halfway across the floor before she realized he’d moved, and she yanked the club free, ready to swing if he gave her an excuse.
Then he was within reach, and she registered the bat leaving his shoulder, and god, her parents were right—
he was going to swing—
he was going to kill her—
His hand shot out and caught the steel bar.
Emily stood there gasping. She’d done it—she’d swung for his head. The end of the putter hung about five inches from his face.
And his bat was leaning against the counter.
Harmless.
She couldn’t move. He didn’t let go of the club either, using his free hand to dig into the pocket of his jeans. A five dollar bill dropped onto the glass counter between them.
“So can I get five tokens or what?”
Tokens. For the batting cages.
Of course.
Emily couldn’t catch her breath—and that never happened. Her panic had kicked the air into a flurry of little whirlwinds in the space between them, teasing her cheeks and lifting his hair.
She could catch his scent, though, sweet and summery, mulch and potting soil, honeysuckle and cut grass. A warm fragrance, not something that belonged on someone she was supposed to hate.
He was staring at her, and he had a death grip on the club. She could feel his strength through the slim bar. “Well?”
“Yeah.” She coughed and cleared her throat, using her own free hand to punch at the cash register. “Sure.”
It took effort to look away from the dark brown of his eyes. Wasn’t there some kind of rule about not looking away from an enemy? She fished the tokens out of the drawer, almost dropping them all over the floor. Somehow, she got them on the glass counter and slid them toward him.
Then they stood there comically, connected by the slim rod of the club.
She wanted to let go—but she didn’t.
Especially now that she’d tried to hit him, when he’d never made a move to lay a hand on her.
She swallowed, thinking of Tyler’s bruised face after he’d gone a few rounds with Michael Merrick.
He leaned in. “I come here every Wednesday and Friday.”
Emily nodded.
“You going to try to kill me every time?”
She shook her head quickly.
He let go of the club. She sheepishly lowered it—but didn’t put it back in the bucket with the others.
Michael swiped the tokens from the counter and jammed them in his pocket. He swung the bat onto his shoulder again.
Emily opened her mouth—for what, she wasn’t sure.
But then he was through the door, pulling it shut behind him without a glance back.

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